Complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing in Scotland Ministerial Group minutes: March 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the ministerial group on 11 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Joint Chairs:  

  • Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP
  • Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC


  • Lynn Brown, SPA Chief Executive
  • Martyn Evans, SPA Chair
  • David Harvie, Crown Agent
  • Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary
  • Michelle Macleod, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner 
  • Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Fiona Taylor, Deputy Chief Constable, People and Professionalism    

Supporting officials:    

  • Clare Hicks, Deputy Director, Police Division
  • Anita Popplestone, Head of Police Complaints and Scrutiny Unit
  • Catherine MacIntyre, Police Complaints and Scrutiny Unit
  • Justin Farrell, Head of CAAPD, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice opened by welcoming everyone to this important first meeting of the Ministerial Group.  


No apologies were submitted.

Opening remarks and reflections on progress since December roundtable meeting

The Cabinet Secretary reflected on the recent evidence session and the positive response from the Justice Sub-committee to the governance and reporting structure. He also commented on the joint response made to Dame Elish which signalled broad acceptance of the recommendations but at the same time recognised that it may be possible to achieve same outcomes through other mechanisms. And whilst partners will move at pace where this is possible, it is more important to ensure that we have the right solution rather than the quick one.

The Cabinet Secretary summarised the key business for the meeting and confirmed his view that the overall position was positive. The Lord Advocate expressed his thanks to partners for being at this first scene-setting meeting of the Group, emphasising the important role that the Group will have in oversight of the overall direction of the improvement work as well as providing an opportunity to raise substantive issues.

The Cabinet Secretary invited partners to provide updates in turn and give their views on the business on the agenda, specifically the proposed terms of reference and reporting format.

Police Scotland

The Chief Constable provided a summary of the substantial work that has been done by Police Scotland since publication of the report. He advised that a report capturing the action taken would be an item on the agenda at the SPA Board meeting on 24 March and this report would also feed into the work of this Group and governance structures. The Chief Constable added that those actions wholly owned by Police Scotland were being taken forward and referring to recommendation 18 as an example, he confirmed that there was energised commitment and significant progress had been made with an independent review group now established. The Cabinet Secretary commended the Chief Constable and DCC Taylor on the quality of work that had been done and for their own personal commitment in this regard.

The Chief Constable also commented on the enhanced capability within complaints handling which had now been brought into a central function of the Professional Standards Department (PSD) within Police Scotland and stated Police Scotland’s unreserved commitment to implementing the recommendations, which would be driven through the Practitioner and other governance groups. There were, however, a number of recommendations where he believed further discussion with partners was required. In concluding, the Chief Constable confirmed support for the three levels within the governance structures.

In response to a question from the Lord Advocate regarding Recommendation 3, the Chief Constable confirmed that he was in agreement with the recommendation which states that other than for pressing operational reasons, initial accounts from officers should be obtained prior to any conferral. 

Scottish Police Authority

The Chair of the SPA endorsed the Chief Constable’s comments and gave his own unequivocal commitment to implementing the recommendations. Mr Evans advised that SPA would progress those recommendations that are wholly owned by them and would work with partners on others. There was an action plan already in place which the Chief Executive would oversee. Mr Evans added that he had taken a personal interest in the senior officer misconduct framework and would work with the PIRC on taking those recommendations forward. There was also need for better data analysis to enable public reporting and increase public confidence in policing. Mr Evans welcomed the report, confirming the SPA’s commitment to delivering the improvements and to working with partners to do this effectively. SPA had recently appointed a new Deputy Chief Executive who would be responsible for driving this work forward. Mr Evans felt that the governance framework was clear and the timetable at pace, which was entirely appropriate. The Cabinet Secretary agreed with the points made by Mr Evans about data analysis and the commitment to working with partners to get the best outcome.

Mr Evans made a final point on recommendation 18, citing a presentation from DCC Taylor to the SPA Board, which set out a clear rationale for establishing an independent review group. He added that the issue was not just within policing, but much wider in society and wanted to ensure there was support for any police officer, but particularly those from minority groups, who experienced this type of abuse in carrying out their jobs. The Cabinet Secretary agreed, noting that many victims of hate crime are police officers.


The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, Ms Michelle Macleod, began with giving feedback on the progress reporting template and proposed one change which Mr Yousaf asked officials to note and action. She felt that overall the position on progress should be relatively clear with the alignment of recommendations to themes and tranches.  

Ms Macleod also advised that PIRC had its own internal project plan, aligned to the agreed themes, through which progress was being managed in a relatively quick timescale. PIRC would be leading on 16 non-legislative recommendations, three of which were complete, five in progress, five needing further discussion, two had been overtaken and one was connected with conduct regulations. Ms Macleod confirmed that she was happy with the overall governance framework and draft terms of reference for the Ministerial Group.

Action 20210311-MG 01:  

  • SG officials to amend the triannual progress report structure replacing ‘Accepted’ with a more nuanced description


Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Ms Gill Imery, advised that she was content with the draft terms of reference and the overall governance and reporting framework. She confirmed that feedback had been provided to Scottish Government officials on the allocation of recommendations within the tranches and although only two recommendations directly involved HMICS, they would have interest across all recommendations. 

Ms Imery referred to recommendation 18 and stated that the independent review group should take cognisance of the forthcoming HMICS follow-up phase 2 inspection of Training and Development which has implications across all of Police Scotland, including support staff and special constables. Ms Imery was impressed by the work being undertaken and level of commitment from Police Scotland, but noted a potential perception issue around the independent review board, given the wording of the recommendation. Both the Chief Constable and SPA Chair agreed that public visibility and acceptance of the rationale for establishing an independent review group was important.

Ms Imery then commented on recommendation 72, which she considered to be much broader than a review of mental health in a custody setting. She confirmed that discussions were taking place with mental health colleagues, but progress had been quite challenging. Mr Yousaf suggested that the Health and Justice Collaboration Improvement Board could assist with progressing this recommendation.

Action 20210311-MG 02:  

  • SG officials to liaise with colleagues supporting the Health and Justice Collaborative to explore options in relation to recommendation 72

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

The Lord Advocate stated his particular interest and responsibilities, as head of the systems for the prosecution of crime and investigating of deaths in Scotland; including the investigation and prosecution, where appropriate, of any criminal allegations against police officers and the investigation of deaths following police contact. With that in mind, the Crown Office, therefore, has an interest in a number of recommendations as well as specific responsibility for four. The Lord Advocate asked Justin Farrell, Head of CAAPD, followed by the Crown Agent, David Harvie, to provide updates to the Group.

Mr Farrell gave a detailed report of progress against the four recommendations on which the Crown Office is leading and the extent to which they consider that some elements have been discharged. Although further discussion with partners and careful modelling of some of the changes would be required, Mr Farrell was very positive about progress so far.

Mr Harvie intimated that he was broadly content with the draft terms of reference and governance and reporting framework, and was committed to progressing the recommendations with partners. Mr Harvie was keen to get focus on the recommendations that needed to be progressed rapidly, for example, where activity should cease, notwithstanding any sensitivities that may be associated with taking that action. He also agreed with Ms Imery on the need for engagement with the relevant health colleagues in relation to recommendation 71 and the importance of ensuring this happens at the earliest possible stage.  

Mr Harvie then referred to the COP26 event in November which he considered to present security issues, critical to public confidence. The Group discussed the arrangements currently in place with regard to mutual aid and in particular the investigation of incidents involving officers from other jurisdictions. The Lord Advocate noted that cross border arrangements with other police forces brought this into focus, to ensure frameworks were in place to allow mutual aid arrangements to work with confidence. In particular, the investigation of incidents involving officers from other jurisdictions was an issue to be addressed, a point echoed by the Chief Constable.

The Cabinet Secretary raised the challenges of trying to bring in new legislation at this point given the timescales, particularly with the Scottish Parliament shortly to be suspended prior to elections and also advised that it was likely to require changes to UK Government legislation because of the cross border arrangements. However, Mr Yousaf said that he understood the points being made and asked Scottish Government officials to investigate the matter further.

Action 20210311-MG 03:  

  • SG officials to liaise with UKG counterparts on feasibility of amending legislation prior to November 2021

In conclusion, the Cabinet Secretary referred to the actions agreed which would be progressed by officials and thanked everyone for their contribution to this important part of the justice system.

Governance and reporting update

All commentary from partners is included in section 3 above.

Any other business

There was no other business raised.

Date of next meeting

Date to be arranged in late May 2021.

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